|Into the Void By C.S. Michaels|
He was lying there enjoying the downtime, knowing that it was going to change quickly. It seemed like he had just fallen asleep when in fact it had probably been a few hours, not long enough for his aching body to recover, although he was finally starting to feel warm after spending so much time on the cold deck.
He and several others had spent thirty-six straight hours working hard, putting their bodies through hell. But that was what he wanted, so he had nobody to blame but himself. He knew life on a crab boat in the Bering Sea was going to be tough and dangerous work and it certainly was that.
Jake swung his feet off the top bunk and jumped down to the floor, almost landing on Tim Donaldson as he was getting out of bed at the same time. After apologizing, Jake started rummaging around the messy room looking for his clothes. He hadnâ€™t taken much off before he went to bed because he was so tired, so he just needed his boots, a long sleeve shirt and a sweatshirt.
He found his blue long-sleeve shirt, put it on then grabbed the black sweatshirt that zipped in the front. After getting his sweatshirt on, he bent down to get his boots. Sitting on the edge of Timâ€™s bed, Jake slipped on his rain boots. He found his Chicago Bears hat, put it on and then pulled the hood of the sweatshirt over the hat.
After getting his boots on, Tim stood up and looked at Jake. â€œAre you ready for another long grind?â€ Tim asked.
â€œYou bet,â€ Jake said confidently, although he would have preferred to have another three hours of sleep.
At only twenty-one, Tim was the youngest of the crew and two years younger than Jake, but he had already worked on the boat for five years. Tim dropped out of high school after discovering crab fishing was his calling. He got a job on the Fiery Maiden and had been working on the boat since leaving school.
His hair was so blond it was almost white, his eyes were blue and he had a fair skin complexion that would burn in less than five minutes in the sun if they were somewhere tropical. Even though he went without shaving, like they all did, the hair on his face was thin and blond so it was hard to notice that he even had a beard. He was missing part of his right pinky from an accident while out crab fishing three years ago.
â€œWell, we better see what Crazy Calvin has in store for us,â€ Tim said.
Jake had heard the Captain referred to as Crazy Calvin, but he hadnâ€™t been comfortable enough asking why that was his nickname. Now that he was getting to know Tim he decided to ask the question. â€œWhy is he called Crazy Calvin?â€ Jake asked.
â€œOh, youâ€™ll see. Heâ€™ll pull some shit on this trip that will be crazy as hell. He always does.â€
Jake shrugged and followed Tim down the hallway and past the galley. They turned right and came to an area that had all of their rain gear hanging from pegs. They started putting their gear on when Danny Sheridan and Bruce Hollister came strolling into the area.
Bruce was in his forties with a receding hairline and a weathered face. Although he was in his forties, more than two decades of hard work had taken its toll on him and he looked like he was at least fifteen years older than that. Heâ€™d been doing this work for well over twenty years with the last ten years working on Crazy Calvinâ€™s boat. He already had a cigarette in his mouth which reminded Jake that he hadnâ€™t seen Bruce without a cigarette very often. Between the back breaking work and smoking like a chimney, Jake didnâ€™t think Bruce had more than fifteen years left in him.
Danny on the other hand was in great shape, looking at least ten years younger than his actual age of thirty. He was an inch shorter than Jake, but carried forty pounds more on his frame. He was muscular with a barrel chest and thick forearms, each covered with multiple tattoos. His thick neck went into broad shoulders that tapered down to his waist.
Jake hated Danny because Danny was a royal asshole. He was quick to get into Jakeâ€™s face and criticize everything he did even though Danny wasnâ€™t the deck boss. Heâ€™d been working on this boat for eight years and reminded Jake every chance he got.
So far Jake had been able to keep his cool around Danny, but he knew that wasnâ€™t going to continue. Sooner or later they were going to come to blows. Jake was going to try not to let that happen, but if it did, Jake would be more than happy to fight him.
â€œWe have a lot of work to do greenhorn,â€ Danny said, already starting to give Jake shit. â€œWe donâ€™t have time to wait on you.â€
Jake was getting tired of being referred to as greenhorn, but he understood that was what all new people on the boat were called so he just dealt with it. It didnâ€™t bother him when the others referred to him as greenhorn, but it rubbed him the wrong way when Danny did it, probably because he couldnâ€™t stand Danny.
â€œYou donâ€™t say?â€ Jake said sarcastically. â€œI thought the Captain called us out of bed so we could all admire the sunrise.â€
â€œShut your mouth, horn,â€ Danny snapped, pissed that Jake would dare say something back to him. Danny was used to greenhorns keeping their mouths shut and putting up with his crap. Jake wasnâ€™t an ordinary greenhorn and Danny was going to realize that fact soon enough.
As Jake turned his back to head out the door, Danny gave him a little shove. Spinning around to face Danny, Jake then took a step toward him so they were face to face. â€œI donâ€™t need your shit,â€ Jake snarled.
Jake was primed and ready to hit Danny if he gave him a reason. His adrenaline was pumping and he had had all he could take from the asshole standing in front of him. Staring at Jake and clenching his fists, Danny was equally ready for a fight as the two of them stared at each other.
Right then the door from the deck opened up and Lou Ryder, the deck boss, stepped in. Everything about Lou was average. He was average height, average weight, and average looking with black hair and brown eyes. Lou had been on the boat the longest of all the crew, going on fifteen years now. He was in his mid-forties and had only worked on the Maiden, joining the crew when he was twenty. Spending the last five years as the deck boss, it was up to him to make sure things ran well and there werenâ€™t any issues.
He saw Jake starting to make a move for Danny and immediately sensed there was going to be a fight. â€œKnock it off you two,â€ Lou yelled at Jake and Danny.
Lou turned to Jake and said, â€œYouâ€™re new here Jake, so Iâ€™ll tell you the rules. We tolerate no fighting on this ship. If you get caught fighting, the Captain will throw you off the boat. Is that clear?â€
â€œCrystal,â€ Jake answered while still keeping his eyes locked on Dannyâ€™s eyes.
Danny had a smirk on his face so Jake stepped even closer to him, standing close enough to smell his breath. â€œIâ€™m only going to tell you this one time,â€ Jake said as he stared into Dannyâ€™s eyes. â€œLeave me the hell alone.â€
Jakeâ€™s build was always referred to as wiry. He had brown hair, usually parted on the side and emerald green eyes. Those eyes could give off a menacingly icy stare when he was mad. He used it to his advantage when he wanted to intimidate someone and now was one of those times. He just stared at Danny until Lou broke it up.
â€œOr what?â€ Danny asked.
â€œTrust me asshole, you wonâ€™t like the consequences.â€
â€œThatâ€™s enough,â€ Lou said. â€œEveryone get out on deck.â€
â€œThis isnâ€™t over,â€ Jake said to Danny. Everyone that was standing there knew it wasnâ€™t going to be over until one of them was lying on their back with the other one standing over the top of him.
Jake finished putting his rain gear on and went through the door, into the icy air. Even though they had been out fishing in this weather for a week, Jake still wasnâ€™t used to the cold weather. He just hoped that eventually his body would adapt to it, but he wasnâ€™t sure that was going to happen. In the meantime, he just made sure he put on several layers of clothes to stay as warm as possible.
After spending the first day getting to their fishing grounds, they had spent all their time setting and retrieving crab pots in what seemed like an endless cycle. Since this was Opilio season, they wanted to see at least three hundred crabs in each pot. Unfortunately, the first several strings only produced about fifty per pot so they headed to new grounds which they were now fishing.
Hopefully, they would have better luck at the new fishing grounds. The less crab they had in their pots meant they had to set more pots to meet their quota. More pots meant more work which meant they had to stay out on the ocean even longer. Everyone kept telling Jake that Crazy Calvin was the best crab captain on the ocean, but Jake had yet to see it.
Walking outside Jake could tell the temperature had dropped since they had gone to bed. It was probably in the high thirties and it was overcast so there was a chance they could get some rain or snow today. Jake hoped the precipitation would hold off because it was tough enough to work on deck without rain and snow, let alone with it. But Jake knew it wouldnâ€™t matter what the weather conditions were, they would continue working.
Jake was mainly responsible for getting the bait ready and then tying it inside the pot, which was really a cage about six feet long, four feet wide and two feet tall. Once the bait was in the pot, the pot would be dumped overboard by a launcher, which was what the pot was lying on. After the pot was dropped into the water, a crewman would throw the buoys into the water after the pot.
There were two buoys, a leading buoy and a trailing buoy that were connected by rope to the pot. The pot would sink to the bottom and the buoys would float on top of the water indicating where the pot was located. Once all the pots were set and they were ready for pick up, the boat would drive by the buoys and someone would throw the hook, snagging the rope between the two buoys. They would then put the rope in the block and reel the pot up.
Once the pot was secured on the boat, lying on the launcher, it would be tipped up and shaken so all the crab would fall into a bin. At that time all the crew on deck, including Jake, would sort the crab, making sure they were a minimum width, they were male and they were clean. The crab couldnâ€™t be covered in anything that took away from the cleanliness of the crab because people didnâ€™t want to pay for crab legs that were covered with barnacles, although they were still safe to eat.
One thing Jake had learned was that the rest of the crew was extremely efficient at the work involved. Jake wanted to make sure he didnâ€™t hold everyone up, so he worked hard to keep up. It wasnâ€™t difficult to get the hang of the routine as it was fairly simple, albeit backbreaking work. But Jake didnâ€™t mind the hard labor and was actually enjoying the work and being out on the ocean.
His biggest concern when he first stepped onto the boat was whether or not he would get seasick. To his relief, he never threw up. He never even felt queasy. Feeling at home on the water, he enjoyed the rocking of the boat and the smell of salt in the air.
He was also enjoying working with the other men. He liked the banter that went back and forth on the deck as the men tried to kill time giving each other all kinds of crap. They all seemed like nice enough guys, except for Danny, and Jake could tell they had worked and known each other for several years. They didnâ€™t quite treat him as an equal yet, but Jake knew they would soon enough.
As Jake pulled on his gloves, the Captainâ€™s voice came over the speaker, â€œOkay boys. Letâ€™s start setting some pots.â€
â€œYou heard the man,â€ Lou said. â€œLetâ€™s go.â€
As they all started taking their places, Lou came over to where Jake was standing. â€œYou can start throwing the buoys in the water today,â€ Lou said. â€œYou need to learn that as well.â€
â€œSounds good,â€ Jake said, happy they were letting him do that.
So far, they just had him getting the bait ready, which was fine but it stunk. It consisted of frozen fish that he had to chop up. Jake would have thought it wouldnâ€™t smell since it was frozen but there was still a stench attached to it. But it wasnâ€™t a horrible smell and Jake was able to put the smell out of his mind so he could concentrate on chopping the fish.
Although he was fine with continuing to get bait ready if thatâ€™s what was needed, Jake was ready to do something else. He just wanted them to keep giving him a chance to do more so he didnâ€™t have to just do the bait for the next month or so. Always a quick learner, Jake knew he would catch on quickly with whatever responsibility they gave him. Plus, he thought to himself, how tough could it be to throw buoys in the water.
Jake started going through the process of chopping the bait. He got a huge block of frozen fish out of the cooler, went to the grinder and started grinding it. He had to push down on the frozen block to force it to chop the large mass into very small pieces. Once it was chopped, he scooped it up with a plastic container that had a handle and was open on one end with a lid. Grabbing three large cod, he went to the pot that was lying on the launcher, climbed inside so he could tie the jug and cod in place and then scrambled back out.
Bruce and Tim were on each end of the pot so as soon as Jake was clear of the pot they shut the doors and tied it shut. Danny pressed a button which raised the launcher that held the pot and dumped it into the water while Tim threw the lead buoy in the water and Jake grabbed the trailing buoy and threw it in the water just like he had watched the others.
All of sudden Danny came running over to Jake yelling and screaming at him. â€œYou lifted your foot, dumbass!â€
â€œWhat the hell are you talking about?â€ Jake asked, not knowing what Danny was referring to.
Lou came over to Jake and Danny. â€œTake it easy Danny,â€ Lou said. â€œNobody ever told him.â€
Then to Jake, Lou said, â€œYou lifted your foot when you threw the buoy into the water. You canâ€™t do that because the rope is lying on the ground. If the rope gets under your foot and around your ankle when the pot starts sinking, it will drag you overboard and down to the bottom of the ocean. Those pots weigh eight hundred pounds and will drag you down very quickly.â€
â€œSorry about that. I didnâ€™t know.â€
â€œDonâ€™t worry about it. Itâ€™s just extremely dangerous to lift your foot. You always want to shuffle your feet so they donâ€™t come off the deck.â€
â€œIt will be certain death unless you can cut the rope and you wonâ€™t have much time to do that. Speaking of which, do you have the knife that we gave you?â€
â€œItâ€™s in my room.â€
â€œGo get it. You need to keep that strapped to your side at all times. Just in case something like that happens, you will need to stay calm and cut the rope quickly.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Jake said as he ran through the door, down the hallway and to his room.
He looked around the room, trying to find the knife. He knew he had taken it off before he went to sleep, but he couldnâ€™t remember where he put it. Looking on his bed, he finally found it under the covers. It was a six-inch long knife with a two and a half inch handle. It was in a leather sheath that Jake could attach to his belt which he did now.
In the event of an emergency, it could be pulled out of the sheath quickly. Thatâ€™s assuming the person wasnâ€™t panicking which someone could easily do if a pot was dragging them down to their watery death.
Jake ran back outside just in time to hear Danny say, â€œWhere is that greenhorn?â€
â€œHeâ€™s probably going back to bed because the work is too tough for him,â€ Bruce said as they all started laughing.
â€œIâ€™m right here,â€ Jake said as he went back to the bait station.
â€œItâ€™s about time,â€ Danny replied, always having to get the last word.
â€œI was gone for less than five minutes,â€ Jake said, determined not to let Danny get the last word.
â€œWhatever. Just get to work horn.â€
â€œUp yours, asshole.â€
Danny started walking towards Jake, not about to let some new crew member talk to him like that. Lou was standing fifteen feet away and came jogging over to them, making sure he was in between both of them so there wouldnâ€™t be any trouble.
â€œWe have a lot of work to do you two,â€ Lou told them both. â€œJust do what youâ€™re supposed to do.â€
Staring at one another, Jake and Danny stood there for a couple of seconds then both of them turned away so they could go back to doing their jobs. Jake would just bide his time and when the time was right he was going to tear into Danny and let him have it. Jake generally tried to avoid fighting, but in this case he was willing to make an exception.
They continued setting pots for the next fourteen hours with Jake working the bait and occasionally throwing a buoy overboard. He focused on dragging his feet as he threw the buoy, making sure he was using the correct technique. He had no intention of letting the rope snake around his ankle.
As he worked, Jake could tell Danny was watching him closely just waiting for Jake to make a mistake so he could jump all over him. Bound and determined not to give the asshole the chance, Jake tried to focus on the job at hand, making sure to do everything the way he had been instructed.
After they set all the pots, the Captain turned the boat around so they could start pulling up the pots that had been set first. As they approached the first set of buoys, the Captain came on the speaker, â€œThe first pot is coming up. Get ready boys.â€
Everyone was excited with anticipation, hoping this string would be the mother lode. There was some hooting and hollering and even some dancing as they all hoped and prayed that this would produce the crabs they were looking for. Bruce took his spot with the hook, ready to throw it. As they approached the first set of buoys, he threw the hook so it landed between the two buoys perfectly.
He started reeling it in so it caught the rope between the buoys then continued pulling until he was able to bring the rope up to him. Then he fed the rope through the block which was a machine that would reel the rope in and coil it nicely in a barrel. Everyone watched as it started reeling the rope in which brought the pot up.
Excitement turned to disappointment as the crew saw the few crabs that were in the pot. There were some groans and cursing as they knew what the empty pot meant. Once the pot was up next to the rail, it was positioned onto the launcher. There were dog ears on each side of the rack that latched onto the pot so when it was lifted to almost a ninety degree angle, it wouldnâ€™t fall off the launcher. They untied the door, lifted the pot up and the door swung open, allowing any crab in the pot to fall into the bin. Then the operator pushed another button so the launcher started shaking the crab out of the pot and into the sorting table.
The rest of the crew started sorting the crab, making sure they were keeping all the legal and clean ones. The crab needed to be a certain width across so they all used wooden measuring sticks. They could get fined if they kept any crab that was undersized so they had to be one hundred percent certain the crab were legal.
Once they were done sorting them, they would dump them into the holding tanks below the deck and Lou would then signal to the Captain how many crab were in that pot. He used one hand to signal the number. For example, if the number was three hundred seventy-four, he would hold three fingers up to indicate three hundred. Then he would hold two fingers sideways which meant add five to the two to give seven. Finally he held four fingers up to show four. The Captain would then repeat the number over the intercom just to make sure the number was correct.
It was especially important to get an accurate number of the crab per pot because the Captain would write that down, keeping track of the number of crabs per pot in a log. This allowed him to estimate how many pounds of crab they had on the boat which would help him determine when they needed to go back to the harbor to offload the crab.
Unfortunately, they werenâ€™t lucky enough to have three hundred seventy-four crabs in this pot. They had much less than that. After the first pot had been sorted, Lou held up one finger sideways then three fingers up which meant that they only had sixty-three crabs in that pot.
â€œSixty-three crab,â€ the Captain repeated. â€œShit. Letâ€™s start stacking the pots.â€
â€œThis sucks,â€ Danny said. â€œWeâ€™re going to be fishing forever if this is all the crab we can find.â€
â€œDonâ€™t worry Danny,â€ Bruce replied. â€œThe Captain will find the crab. He always does.â€
â€œWell, I hope to hell he does. Otherwise, weâ€™re going to be out here a long time.â€
â€œShut up,â€ Lou said. â€œWe have a job to do. Let the Captain do his job and you just focus on your job.â€
Danny snapped his heels together and gave a mock salute to Lou. He really was an asshole, Jake thought. He didnâ€™t know how the others had put up with him for so many years. The only answer Jake could come up with was that he must be a hard worker.
Lou went to the boom which was used to haul pots around the deck. Bruce hooked the pot onto the boom then Lou maneuvered it towards the wheelhouse, setting it on its side in front of the wheelhouse. They proceeded to haul up the rest of the pots on that string which was about fifty pots, as well as the other strings they had set, stacking the pots as they unloaded them. None of the pots had more than a hundred crabs and some of them had as few as ten.
It was demanding work that yielded very little crab. Fifteen hours later they finally had the last of the pots stacked on the deck, finishing another long grind. That was life on a crab boat, Jake had come to realize, one long grind after another.
â€œEveryone can go get something to eat while I figure out our next move,â€ the Captain said over the intercom.
Jake and the rest of the crew walked off the deck, after making sure everything was put away and secure. They took off their gear and trudged down the hallway and into the galley, tired and hungry, ready to get some food in their stomachs and then go to their rooms for some much needed rest.
â€œHey greenhorn, itâ€™s time you make us something to eat,â€ Danny said as Jake started walking down the hallway.
Turning around, Jake stared at Danny for a second, contemplating what he was going to do. Had they been anywhere besides a crab boat, Jake would have charged him and beat the crap out of him. However, he was trying to remain calm, but Danny was making it awfully difficult for him. He settled himself down so he could speak to Danny in as calm a voice as possible.
â€œIâ€™m not your cook,â€ Jake responded. â€œMake your own damn meal.â€
â€œYou need to understand something horn. Youâ€™re the lowest of the low on this boat. If any of us tell you to do something then you have to do it, unless you donâ€™t want a share of the money.â€
The main reason Jake came to Alaska was for the money. He had seen on those shows on TV that some of these guys made between thirty and sixty thousand dollars during a season. That was big time money, especially for someone like Jake. He had never had more than three or four thousand dollars to his name, so the thought of making that kind of cash excited him. Since Jake lived very simply, that money would last him years.
Jake knew the crew would vote at the end of the season how much of a share Jake would get. He didnâ€™t want to give them any reason not to pay him which was the reason for him trying to show restraint. Jake relented and decided he would make them breakfast.
â€œFine, Iâ€™ll make you guys breakfast,â€ Jake replied.
â€œThatâ€™s more like it,â€ Danny said with a grin on his face, knowing he had just won the battle.
Had Danny not made the last remark, Jake would have gone to the galley to start breakfast. Now he wasnâ€™t going to because he didnâ€™t want Danny to think he got the best of him. â€œYouâ€™re going to have to ask me nicely,â€ Jake said.
Dannyâ€™s face went from cocky to mad in a heartbeat. â€œScrew you.â€
â€œThen I guess everyone is on their own for breakfast today.â€
The rest of the crew stood motionless, looking at Danny and Jake, wondering who was going to give in first or who was going to throw the first punch. It was clear that both of them were trying to assert their dominance so they wanted to see who would emerge the winner. They knew Danny was tough, thanks to witnessing many fights, but the new guy seemed to be tough as well.
Sensing Jake wasnâ€™t about to back down, Lou decided to intervene because he was hungry and he really didnâ€™t want to make his own breakfast. He was getting tired of all the bickering that was going back and forth between the two of them. It seemed never ending.
â€œJake, Danny is right. Youâ€™re the new guy and this is part of your responsibility. Will you please make us some breakfast?â€
Knowing that he just won the first battle, Jake didnâ€™t want to push it. â€œWhat would you guys like to eat?â€ Jake asked.
â€œIâ€™ll take bacon and eggs,â€ Danny said.
â€œJake, you can just make scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes,â€ Lou said. â€œThat will be fine.â€
â€œNo problem. I can handle that.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to bed so call me when breakfast is ready,â€ Danny said as he left the room.
â€œWeâ€™re all going to our rooms,â€ Lou added. â€œJust let us know when itâ€™s ready.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Jake responded as Bruce and Lou left the galley as well.
Tim said to Jake, â€œDonâ€™t worry about Danny. He enjoys busting greenhornâ€™s balls. Just keep doing what youâ€™re doing and everything will be fine.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to get a little sleep now,â€ Tim said as he walked out of the galley, leaving Jake there by himself.
Jake looked around the galley, finally finding the potatoes. He took eight potatoes out of the bag then looked for a knife, not knowing if they had a potato peeler on board. He found a sharp knife and started peeling the potatoes, making sure to throw the skin in the garbage. After he was done with peeling the potatoes, he started cutting the potatoes into thin slices. Once he was done with that, he found a large pan, pulled it out of the cabinet and placed it on the stove. Looking in the cupboards above his head, he found a bottle of oil.
Pouring a generous amount of oil into the pan, he put all of the potato slices in with the oil and turned on the stove. After he had the potatoes cooking, he found a griddle and plugged it into the wall. He wasnâ€™t sure how hot to make it, so he turned the knob to medium then went to the fridge and grabbed two pounds of bacon. Cutting the package open, he started placing the long strips of bacon on the griddle.
Next he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a carton that was full of eighteen eggs. He located a large bowl and started cracking the eggs, putting the yoke and whites into the bowl. As soon as he had all eighteen eggs in the bowl, he added milk and beat it with a fork.
Putting another large pan on the stove, he turned it on, added some oil and dumped the bowl of eggs into it. While the eggs and potatoes were cooking, he made sure to flip the bacon. For the next twenty to thirty minutes, he moved between the eggs, bacon and potatoes.
Jake wasnâ€™t very skilled at cooking, never having a need or opportunity to cook before so he had no idea how this food was going to taste. Figuring they should be happy with what they were getting, he didnâ€™t worry about whether they liked it or not.
He did the best he could, but managed to burn the bacon and potatoes. The bacon wasnâ€™t burnt too badly, but the potatoes were very crispy since he didnâ€™t turn them often enough. He managed to cook the eggs without any issues so at least there was something that would be good.
When everything was done, he scooped the eggs onto a platter, the potatoes onto another platter and the bacon onto a plate. He thought about making some toast as well, but he was tired and didnâ€™t feel like making anything else. He figured if they wanted toast then they could just make it themselves. It wouldnâ€™t take them too long to toast a couple of pieces of bread.
Grabbing another plate out of the cupboard for himself, he dished up some breakfast and sat down to eat. He knew he should let everyone know breakfast was ready, but he made the breakfast so he felt like he should get to enjoy it first. For the next fifteen minutes, he relaxed and enjoyed his meal in peace and quiet, not having to hear anyoneâ€™s smart ass remarks. It wasnâ€™t the best breakfast he ever had, but it would do. He was starving from all the hard work on deck so his stomach wasnâ€™t going to be too picky about the kind of food that went into it.
All in all, he was glad he came to Alaska. He had actually meant to come here a couple of years ago, but got sidetracked in Seattle. Now he was here and he was enjoying it. The hard labor didnâ€™t bother him. The biggest pain in the ass was Danny and he knew that at some point, he and Danny were going to have to fight it out. It would be the only way Danny would leave him alone. He was nothing but a bully and the only way to deal with bullies was to lay them out. Jake would try to hold back his temper for as long as he could, but Danny was wearing on him and Jake was worried how long he would be able to be patient and let it go. Not too much longer, Jake thought.
Jake pushed Danny out of his thoughts and went down the hall to start waking everyone up. They were still in their clothes, sleeping on their beds. A couple of them had managed to take off their boots, the others just collapsed in their bed, boots and all. Jake told everyone the food was ready and to go to the galley to eat.
After walking back into the galley, Jake stood there and waited for everyone to return. One by one they filed into the galley, grabbed a plate and fork off the table and started scooping food onto the plate. Sitting down, they started digging into the food without saying much. Except for Danny, he always had something to say.
â€œThis food is cold,â€ Danny said.
â€œThen donâ€™t eat it,â€ Jake replied.
Danny looked at his food then looked at Jake, worried something was up. â€œWhy arenâ€™t you eating it?â€
â€œIâ€™m not hungry.â€
â€œDid you do something to it?â€
Jake laughed and said, â€œYouâ€™re very suspicious Danny. No, I didnâ€™t do anything to it. I ate as I cooked so Iâ€™m not hungry if you must know.â€
Danny was getting ready to respond when Lou interrupted. â€œThatâ€™s enough. Jake, can you let the Captain know that the food is ready?â€
â€œSure, no problem,â€ Jake said and made his way to the wheelhouse.
As Jake approached the four stairs that led to the wheelhouse, he stopped. Not sure if he should knock or not, he decided it was best to be safe so he knocked on the wall since it didnâ€™t have a door. â€œCome in,â€ the Captain said.
Jake took the four stairs quickly, turned right and faced the Captain. The wheelhouse was approximately fifteen feet wide and eight feet deep. The Captainâ€™s chair was on Jakeâ€™s right and there was a second chair on Jakeâ€™s left. In front of the Captainâ€™s chair was a console which had monitors, gauges, buttons and more. There was a huge window that ran the length of the wheelhouse so the Captain could keep watch over everything that was happening on the boat as well as watch the seas in front of them.
The Captain was a man in his fifties with white hair and a white beard. He was a little overweight, probably from sitting in a chair all the time so he had a big belly as his shirt buttons strained not to bust.
The Captain was looking at a couple of monitors so Jake just stood there patiently, waiting for the Captain to acknowledge him. Finally, the Captain swung his chair around so he was facing Jake. â€œWhatâ€™s up Jake?â€ he asked.
â€œBreakfast is ready.â€
â€œGreat. Iâ€™ll be right there.â€ Jake started to turn to go back down the stairs when the Captain said, â€œWait a second Jake.â€
Jake turned back around so he was facing the Captain. â€œYes.â€
â€œYouâ€™re doing a good job so far.â€
â€œAs you can imagine, we go through a lot of greenhorns. Everyone thinks they can handle the work, but it ends up being a lot tougher than they thought. So they either quit or they get fired.â€
â€œItâ€™s definitely tougher than I thought it would be, but I wonâ€™t quit,â€ said Jake.
â€œI can tell that. I hope you continue to work as hard as you have been.â€
â€œI know Danny can be a pain in the ass sometimes,â€ the Captain said.
â€œThereâ€™s no doubt about that,â€ Jake replied laughing, surprised by the Captain comment. â€œHeâ€™s a huge pain in the ass.â€
The Captain laughed at Jakeâ€™s remark. â€œThatâ€™s true. He just sees so many people quit that he tries to give the new guys crap to see if theyâ€™ll quit. I think itâ€™s his way of helping to weed out the guys that are going to quit.â€
â€œWell, I think heâ€™s just an asshole,â€ Jake responded, deciding not to hold back.â€
â€œThat may be true, but heâ€™s a good worker and heâ€™s been with me for a long time. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you to keep doing what youâ€™re doing.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what Tim said too.â€
â€œItâ€™s good advice. Eventually Danny will see that youâ€™re not going to quit so heâ€™ll stop hassling you.â€
Jake nodded since he didnâ€™t really have anything else to add to the conversation. He turned to look out the windows at the sea in front of them. Jake was really enjoying cruising on the open water with the freedom to go wherever they chose. In a lot of ways, it was like his life.
The Captain saw Jake admiring the sea. â€œItâ€™s great out here isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œYeah, I really like it. I could definitely see myself spending a lot of time on the ocean.â€
â€œItâ€™s my favorite place to be. Sure, I miss my family, but Iâ€™m truly happiest out here.â€
They both watched silently, looking out the window. â€œNow letâ€™s go get some breakfast,â€ the Captain said as he climbed out of the chair.
They walked down the stairs, through the hallway and into the galley. The Captain admired the food, which wasnâ€™t much now that the others had been eating it. He dished up the remaining food onto a plate. Leaning against a wall, he started shoveling the food into his mouth.
After stuffing several mouthfuls of the food in his mouth, he looked up. â€œThis is delicious. Who made it?â€
â€œJake made the breakfast,â€ Lou replied.
The Captain nodded at Jake. â€œItâ€™s good.â€
â€œOkay. Now that I have all of you down here, we need to talk about the plan. As you can tell, this location sucks. So, Iâ€™ve been looking for somewhere better that we can go. The problem is that there are so many boats out this year that no matter where we go, weâ€™re going to have to compete with them.â€
â€œSo what are you planning on doing skipper?â€ Lou asked as he took a drink of coffee.
Jake noticed the steam coming from the cup then looked around and saw a pot of coffee that had just been brewed. Jake had forgotten to make the coffee when he was making breakfast, but he was glad someone thought to make it. Walking over to the counter, he poured himself a cup, not bothering with cream or sugar then took a small sip and savored the taste.
â€œThereâ€™s a spot that I fished fifteen years ago that had incredible crab counts,â€ the Captain said. â€œItâ€™s still one of the best years Iâ€™ve ever had.â€
â€œThere must be a problem with it,â€ Lou said.
â€œWhy do you say that?â€
â€œIf it was a great spot then you would go back there a lot more. You wouldnâ€™t wait fifteen years before going back to that spot so there must be something wrong with it.â€
â€œYes, there is,â€ The Captain replied. â€œThe problem is that itâ€™s very far away from here.â€
â€œHow far?â€ Bruce asked.
â€œIt is closer to Russia than it is to the United States. Thereâ€™s a place out there I like to call a void because it is so close to Russia most people avoid it.â€
â€œThere must be a reason for that,â€ Jake said.
â€œYeah, you're right. If anything happens to the boat out there, we canâ€™t call the Coast Guard. Well, we can call the Coast Guard, but they wonâ€™t be able to do much. Thereâ€™s no way theyâ€™ll make it out there in time to help us if we have something seriously wrong. We will be on our own or we have to rely on the Russians to help us.â€
â€œHow close will we be to Russia?â€ Lou asked.
â€œWeâ€™ll still be quite a distance from Russia as well,â€ said the Captain. â€œIt will take us a few days to get out there, but when we do, the fishing will be unlike any fishing youâ€™ve ever seen.â€
â€œYeah, because thereâ€™s nobody else crazy enough to go out there,â€ Danny said.
â€œThatâ€™s right. First of all, it takes a lot of fuel to get out there and back. So, if we do not catch any crab we wasted a ton of money, which comes out of all of our pockets. Secondly, as I said, if we run into mechanical problems or other issues with the boat then weâ€™re calling the Russians and the Coast Guard and weâ€™ll see who gets to us first. Third, weâ€™re going to be further north so we may have to battle the ice more than we would down here. As you guys know, thatâ€™s not any fun.â€
â€œThe ice sucks,â€ Tim said. â€œI hate dealing with all of that shit.â€
â€œYeah, weâ€™ll need to make sure we have the sledgehammers ready,â€ the Captain replied.
â€œI like the idea of going somewhere that nobody else will be,â€ Bruce said.
â€œI agree,â€ Lou said. â€œThere are boats everywhere out here.â€
â€œYeah, if we stay here, weâ€™ll never catch anything,â€ Bruce added.
â€œSo, is everyone in agreement?â€ the Captain asked. â€œWeâ€™re going to go into the void?â€
As the Captain looked around at everyone, they all shook their head yes. â€œGood,â€ replied the Captain. â€œAll of you go out on deck and make sure everything is tied down and put away. Then you guys can get some sleep. Itâ€™s going to take a while to get out there.â€
â€œSounds good,â€ Lou said. â€œYou heard the man. Finish up and letâ€™s get to work.â€
The Captain turned and walked back towards the wheelhouse. After the Captain left, Tim looked at Jake and said, â€œThat is why they call him Crazy Calvin. Nobody else would dare go into the void.â€
Twenty-four hours later, Jake was once again lying in his bed thinking of the work that would be starting soon. He wasnâ€™t sure how long he had been asleep, but figured it was probably around seven hours. Thatâ€™s usually the most Jake could sleep at one time, whether he was on the sea or on land, so he felt well rested.
As he lay there, Jake thought about what had happened during the last seven months and how he landed on this boat. He had spent the spring in Omaha, then decided it was time to leave town and go somewhere else. That was life for Jake as he never liked to spend much time in one location. He was twenty-four years old and for the last two and a half years, the longest he stayed in one location was four months. He enjoyed the travel and he liked to see different parts of the county so it was a life that he liked living.
Taking odd jobs, he was able to earn enough money to get him to Alaska. He always hitch hiked with truckers since it was the easiest and cheapest way to travel. Truckers, in general were nice and most of them were willing to give him a ride when needed. He would always try to repay them by buying the truckerâ€™s lunches along the way. That wasnâ€™t as cheap as it sounded though because some of those truckers could eat a lot.
Jake didnâ€™t have much and traveled with what he could put in a backpack which was usually a couple of extra pairs of pants and a couple of shirts along with some personal items like a tooth brush and razor. If it didnâ€™t fit in his backpack then he figured he didnâ€™t need it. If he did need it and didnâ€™t have it then he figured he could always buy it.
During the summer months, he would just sleep outside wherever he could find someplace convenient. Sleeping under the stars never bothered him and he didnâ€™t have anything valuable for anyone to steal. In most cases, people just mistook him for a bum. However, as he continued going west and north and as the summer faded to fall, the weather started cooling so he started finding cheap motels where he could sleep. Jake wasnâ€™t picky, so he didnâ€™t care how bad the motels were.
As he meandered through the northwest, he didnâ€™t really have a clue where he was going to end up. He had been to Seattle before and really liked it. He thought he would head to the coast and then work his way south, maybe go to Portland and continue to San Francisco, but he was still undecided.
It was in a cheap motel in some small town in Washington when he finally made the decision where to go next. He had been watching a show on TV about crab fishermen. He was shocked at how much money those guys could make so he thought it would be a good way to make money and it seemed very interesting.
He normally worked as unskilled labor for construction crews and anything else that could generate a few bucks, so the thought of working on a fishing boat seemed like the perfect way to get some experience doing something else, although he knew nothing about boats. Everyone on the TV show talked about how hard and brutal the work was, but Jake was young and in great shape so he figured he could definitely do the work with no problem.
So at that point, he changed direction and shifted from going west to heading north. He hitched rides until he finally made his way to a town on the west coast of Alaska. He asked where he could find work on a crab boat and the locals told him he needed to go where the fleet was and that was in Crescent Harbor.
He was informed he had to fly there because it was on an island that was part of the Aleutian Islands. He worked a few odd jobs until he had enough for a plane ticket then headed to Crescent Harbor. When he first arrived in Crescent Harbor, the first thing he thought was that he should have bought some warmer clothes because it was cold.
He had bought a few warm items on the trip north, but he knew now that he should have bought some more. Having grown up in Chicago, he had experienced plenty of cold weather. In the Midwest the cold weather was usually accompanied by winds which made the weather feel even colder. The wind wasnâ€™t blowing in Crescent Harbor when he arrived and he hoped that was the norm and not the exception.
After asking several people if there were any boats hiring, he was told there were always boats looking for help. As he walked around town asking people for information on who would be hiring, he was told that he came at the perfect time. King crab season had just ended and it was the beginning of the Opilio season.
What the difference was between the two, Jake had no idea. He never had enough money to buy crab legs so he didnâ€™t know the first thing about them. He eventually found out that King crab were much larger, hence their name.
The people in town said the boats would be looking for new greenhorns because several of them always quit right after the King crab season. When Jake asked why they quit, he was always told the work was hard and conditions were just too difficult for most people. Jake would just nod his head as they looked at him wondering if he would be any different.
Jake walked down to the harbor where he noticed all the crab boats were docked. The first two boats he approached, he had asked to see the captain. In both cases, he was allowed to go onboard and talk to the captain. However, in both cases the captain told him they didnâ€™t need anyone. So, he continued walking until he arrived at the next boat.
He looked up and saw a massive hundred and seventy-five foot boat with the name The Fiery Maiden painted on the side. The boat was painted white and the letters in the name of the boat were painted with red and orange.
The front two-thirds of the boat was all open deck, although a lot of it was filled with cages that Jake would find out later were called pots, stacked in rows. There was some kind of crane that was probably used to move the pots around Jake thought. Behind the pots was most likely what Jake assumed was the bridge or wheelhouse or whatever they called it where the captain piloted the boat.
Jake saw a man working on the dock next to the boat, apparently loading supplies for the next trip. The man was medium height and weight with dark hair and a three-day old beard. He had a cigarette in his mouth and was wearing a black Nike baseball hat.
â€œIs the captain on board?â€ Jake asked.
The man stopped what he was doing, looked at Jake for a moment. â€œYes, heâ€™s in the wheelhouse,â€ the man said as he pointed up to a part of the boat that Jake figured was where the captain piloted the boat.
â€œCan you take me up there? Iâ€™m looking for a job.â€
Jake and the man climbed on board then Jake followed him through a door. Once inside they made an immediate right, taking a small flight of stairs into the wheelhouse. â€œHey skipper, weâ€™ve got someone here whoâ€™s interested in a job,â€ the man said.
Jake was halfway up the stairs when he heard a voice say, â€œSend him up.â€
The man that Jake had followed motioned for Jake to head up the stairs as he made his way past Jake and down the stairs. Jake entered the wheelhouse and saw a heavy set man in the captainâ€™s chair smoking a cigarette staring at a clipboard. From the smoke wafting around the room, Jake figured he must smoke one cigarette after the other. He had on a blue flannel shirt and a pair of jeans. Looking up from his clipboard, Jake could see that the man had brown eyes, gray hair that was mostly likely brown at one time and a gray beard.
Jake walked over to him, held out his hand and waited for the captain. The captain set down the clipboard, stood up and shook Jakeâ€™s hand. â€œMy name is Jake Bryant.â€
â€œCaptain Calvin McKlosky,â€ responded the Captain.
â€œI was hoping you would have a job opening. Iâ€™ll take anything that you have.â€
The Captain looked him up and down, trying to decide if he was worthy of his time. Jake was getting that a lot since he came to Alaska, although he didnâ€™t know why. â€œHave you ever worked on a boat before?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œHave you ever been on a boat before?â€
The captain shook his head. â€œWhere do all of you guys come from? You all see the show on TV and think you can do it too. Itâ€™s much harder than it looks.â€
â€œI can take it,â€ replied Jake. â€œIâ€™m not afraid of a little hard work.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s a lot of hard work. How do I know youâ€™re not going to throw up as soon as we leave port? Iâ€™ve had that happen on more than one occasion.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t know. However, Iâ€™ll tell you this. If that does happen, which I donâ€™t think it will, I will still work. You will definitely get your moneyâ€™s worth out of me.â€
The Captain sat back down in his chair, apparently thinking about whether or not to hire Jake. After a moment he said, â€œItâ€™s your lucky day. We had a greenhorn quit yesterday so there is an open position. You said you would do anything. Well thatâ€™s what a greenhorn does. You are the low man on the totem pole on this boat so no matter who tells you to do something, you do it. Do you understand?â€
â€œI hope you do. We have a great team and the guys have been together for a long time. Unfortunately, we keep getting greenhorns that donâ€™t want to stay around for any length of time.â€
Jake nodded, not knowing if he should say something or not. He decided it was best to let the Captain finish his speech. He had a feeling this wasnâ€™t the first time the Captain said all of this so Jake kept quiet. As he expected, the Captain had more to say.
The Captain continued, â€œIâ€™ve got some paperwork you need to fill out. You donâ€™t need to do it now because we have a lot of work to do, but you can do it later.â€
â€œWhat kind of paperwork?â€
â€œItâ€™s just the usual shit that employers need if you want to get paid.â€
The captain picked up the mike, clicked it on and said, â€œLou, come to the wheelhouse.â€
A few minutes later a man came walking up the stairs and into the wheelhouse. It was the same man that had taken Jake to the wheelhouse to meet the Captain. Scratching his nose, he looked at Jake with his brown eyes.
â€œWhatâ€™s up skipper?â€ he asked.
â€œMeet our newest greenhorn. This is-â€ the Captain said then looked at Jake. â€œWhatâ€™s your name again?â€
â€œItâ€™s Jake Bryant.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right. Lou, this is Jake Bryant. Take him downstairs and give him a bunk.â€
The Captain looked at Jake and said, â€œThis is Lou, heâ€™s the deck boss. You do everything he says. Donâ€™t question it, just do it.â€
â€œGot it,â€ responded Jake.
Jake nodded at Lou as Lou nodded back. â€œGo get the rest of your stuff and stow it in your room,â€ the Captain continued.
â€œThis is all my stuff,â€ Jake replied.
â€œShit. Youâ€™re going to need more than that. We leave in the morning, so I suggest you go into town and get some warmer clothes. Itâ€™s going to get cold out there. Now get out of my wheelhouse.â€
Jake followed Lou back down the stairs, through a hallway and into the galley. â€œHave you ever done any fishing before?â€ Lou asked as they were walking.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t.â€
â€œHave you ever been on a boat before?â€
â€œShit. Well the Captain must need someone badly if heâ€™s willing to take someone that has never done any kind of fishing and has never been on a boat. No offense intended.â€
â€œNo problem. I understand. Donâ€™t worry about me. Iâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œI just hope you donâ€™t throw up all over the place. Youâ€™ll be no use to us if youâ€™re on your hands and knees bent over a toilet the whole trip.â€
â€œThat wonâ€™t happen.â€
They went through the galley past a bathroom and passed a couple of doors that were open and were where the crew slept. Jake looked in and saw that the rooms were very small, probably about eight feet by six feet. There was a bunk bed in there and that was about it. After approaching the third door, Lou opened it up, showing Jake where he was going to sleep.
â€œThrow your stuff in there,â€ Lou said. â€œYouâ€™ll share a room with Tim. I think he uses the bottom bunk so you can have the top bunk.â€
â€œGo into town and get some warm clothes, gloves and something to cover your head. As the captain said, it gets really cold out there. Be back by tonight because we leave in the morning and the captain will not wait for you.â€
Lou had already turned and walked away so he didnâ€™t hear him. Jake went into the messy room, looked into his backpack and pulled out the remaining cash he had. Counting it, he sighed because he only had two hundred fifty-five dollars and some change left. When he left Omaha, he had two thousand dollars and he earned some more along the way, but now he didnâ€™t have much left over.
He was glad he found a job, but he wasnâ€™t sure the money he had was going to buy him much. He would just have to look for some good deals. Knowing the money wasnâ€™t going to buy him a lot, he decided he would just prioritize what he needed. Once he ran out of money then that was it. He would just have to get by with what he ended up buying.
Jake put the money in his pocket, walked out of the room and left the boat to go to town to buy warmer clothes. He ended up spending all of his money and as he predicted, it didnâ€™t buy him much. But it was enough and he didnâ€™t get too cold on deck.
As Jake lay in his bed, he thought about all of that. It only happened a week ago, but it already felt like months ago because of the hours they worked. They worked many hours in a row then only got a few hours to eat and sleep. It was demanding work but Jake had proven to them that he was capable of keeping up.
As Jake laid there thinking about all of that, the captainâ€™s voice came over the intercom and said, â€œGet your asses up.â€
They had been cruising northwest for a day straight so Jake figured they had to be getting close to the fishing grounds. Tim had told Jake to enjoy the rest because once they were â€œon the crabâ€ as they liked to say, it would be a lot of hard work. For now, they were checking gear to make sure it was securely fastened, eating and resting.
Jake hopped down from the bunk, putting a few layers of clothes on. Once all his layers were on, he put on a couple of pairs of socks before pulling on his boots. He wanted to dress warm because he knew the cold weather would be starting soon. As they were cruising they had experienced a lot of rain and snow. It had already started to accumulate on the boat so he knew they were going to have to get that off.
â€œGet ready for some hard work,â€ Tim said with a smile on his face.
â€œWeâ€™re going to have to get all the ice off the boat. That is hard work.â€
â€œNo problem,â€ Jake said.
Laughing at Jakeâ€™s ignorance about what that entailed, Tim said, â€œOkay, letâ€™s go.â€
Tim and Jake walked out of their room and met the others in the hallway putting the rest of their gear on. Jake had on his Chicago Bears hat then put on the rain gear over his clothes and put his gloves on last. He put his belt with the knife sheath on over his rain gear so it would be easy to get to. He hoped he would never need it because if he did then that meant he was in a lot of trouble and he would only have a few seconds to get out of the trouble.
Opening the door to the deck, he stepped outside and was immediately hit by the cold, snow and wind. It felt twenty degrees colder than when they had been working on deck yesterday. There was no sun as it was blocked out by a thick layer of clouds.
The next thing Jake noticed was all the ice that was on the boat. It was several inches thick and it was over the entire vessel. Just standing there staring at it, Jake was in awe. It was as if a sea of white had engulfed the entire boat. He had seen that on television, but seeing it in person was unreal.
Tim came up behind Jake and said, â€œIncredible, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œYeah, it really is. I canâ€™t believe how much ice is on the boat.â€
Then Danny came up behind them. â€œShut up greenhorn. Letâ€™s get to work.â€
Jake just shook his head as he watched Danny walk away. Turning towards Tim, Jake said, â€œHe never stops with it, does he?â€
â€œNot until youâ€™ve graduated from being a greenhorn. Then heâ€™ll let up.â€
â€œYou would think Iâ€™ve proven to him that Iâ€™m more than a greenhorn now.â€
Tim shrugged as Lou came out on deck with sledgehammers and snow shovels. He handed Danny, Bruce and Tim a sledgehammer and then gave Jake a snow shovel. â€œThese guys are going to start knocking the ice off the boat,â€ Lou said to Jake. â€œYou need to shovel it overboard.â€
Jake nodded. â€œThat sounds easy enough.â€
â€œJust be extremely careful with the ice thatâ€™s overhead. If a chunk of ice falls on you, it will kill you. Even a small chunk of ice can do some serious damage.â€
â€œGot it,â€ Jake said.
For the next couple of hours, Jake followed the others around the boat, attacking the ice that was covering it. They were probably carrying an extra fifty thousand pounds of weight so it was important to get the ice off the boat so they wouldnâ€™t become top-heavy and roll the boat. If that were to happen they would have almost no chance of survival. Sure, they had to learn and practice putting on the big, bulky survival suits but if the boat rolled there would be no chance of getting the suits in time.
As the others would swing the sledgehammer, hitting the ice and knocking it to the deck, Jake would use the snow shovel and push it off the deck and into the ocean. Even small pieces of ice were heavy, so it was hard work for Jake as he struggled to push all the ice overboard.
The Captain wanted to make sure they took care of all of this work before setting any of the pots so he told them to continue to work until all of the ice was removed. Silently, they kept working, trying to get all of the ice off the boat. It was difficult to get the ice that was on top of the crane and on some of the higher structures. People had to climb up to knock the ice off which led to potentially more danger.
Tim hadnâ€™t lied, it was hard work. The ice was extremely heavy, even when Jake was trying to shovel it overboard. His back was starting to ache from bending over and shoveling the ice. He would have preferred to be one of the guys swinging the sledgehammer, but knew he needed to man the shovel since he was the newest person. It sucked, but he wasnâ€™t about to complain to anyone so he just continued to work.
At one point, Tim was climbing on the boom, knocking the ice off of it when a piece of ice about two feet wide fell down, landing a foot away from Jake, crashing onto the deck. As soon as it landed on the deck, Jake jumped back and was clearly startled at the near miss, knowing that had it landed on his head, he would be dead.
Danny came running over to Jake, yelling once again. â€œThis is why you need to watch what youâ€™re doing asshole!â€ he screamed at Jake. â€œIf that ice would have landed on you, it would have killed you.â€
Jake had had enough of Dannyâ€™s crap, so he threw down the shovel then moved forward so he was right in Dannyâ€™s face. Jake was furious, tired of the constant bashing by Danny and he wasnâ€™t going to take it anymore. This was going to end now.
Inches away from Dannyâ€™s face, Jake had a look on his face like he was ready to kill Danny. â€œThatâ€™s enough you son of a bitch!â€ Jake yelled. â€œIâ€™m sick of listening to your shit.â€
As Danny started to reply, Jake cut him off. â€œIf you say one more word to me, Iâ€™m going to kick your ass.â€
Danny was always looking for a fight and didnâ€™t back down from anyone, so he certainly wasnâ€™t going to back down from Jake. He dropped the sledgehammer then shoved Jake with everything he had, catching Jake off guard. Danny was strong as an ox and the shove sent Jake stumbling backwards. His right foot caught the edge of the sorting table causing him to fall backwards, hitting his head on the ice that covered the deck.
He had hit his head solidly on the deck, but Jake was in a rage. Not even noticing the knock on the head, Jake was up on his feet in less than a second, fury taking over his emotions. There was no way for Jake to remain calm now. Even if he wanted to, he wasnâ€™t going to be able to restrain himself.
Jake always tried to be the first one to strike, but he thought he could intimidate Danny like he did with just about everyone else he had met. In this instance Danny had made the first move, but he also made a critical mistake. In Jakeâ€™s experience, you strike first and when you do, you better make it count. Although Danny had struck first, all he had accomplished was to make Jake even madder than he was.
Jake ran towards Danny ready to take him down. Danny saw Jake coming at him and tried to sidestep him, but he was a second too late. Jake rammed his shoulder into Dannyâ€™s midsection then wrapped him up and took him down to the hard, icy deck. They slid across the icy deck, stopping a few feet from the railing.
The hard tackle by Jake combined with him hitting the deck knocked the wind out of Danny and gave Jake a second to get to his knees, straddling Dannyâ€™s chest. Now in the more favorable position, Jake hit Danny with two quick punches to the face. Danny tried to hold his hands in front of him to stop the punches but it didnâ€™t do any good. His hands were no match for Jakeâ€™s powerful punches.
Jakeâ€™s punches landed solidly with the first one landing on Dannyâ€™s left cheek and the second one landing on his left eye. Since Jake threw the punches quickly, they had some power but he hadnâ€™t hit Danny with everything he had. Danny tried to buck Jake off of him, but he had no leverage and he wasnâ€™t able to move Jake.
Throwing three more quick punches, Jake hit Danny on the nose and the mouth, opening a cut on his lip. Now that Danny was trying to cover up, Jake reared back and was ready to let loose with a punch that had all his strength behind it. At that moment, he felt two people grab him by his arms and pull him off Danny.
â€œThatâ€™s enough Jake,â€ Lou said.
Looking to his right, Jake saw Bruce holding onto his right arm then he looked to his left to see Tim holding onto his left arm. Lou was in front of Jake pushing him back so he couldnâ€™t continue the attack on Danny. Struggling to try to get back to Danny, Jake wanted to continue hitting him. He had no intentions on letting up. Jake was still in attack mode which often happened to him when he was fighting. He had a hair trigger for a temper and Danny had flipped his switch sending him into a rampage.
Jake was trying to shake Bruce and Tim off him as Lou yelled, â€œJake! Stop it!â€
Finally starting to understand and calm down from his madness, Jake seemed to flip the switch back. â€œOkay,â€ Jake said as he held up his hands, palms out, showing them he was done. â€œYou can let go of me. Iâ€™ll stop.â€
Bruce and Tim slowly let go of Jake, staying right next to him to make sure he wasnâ€™t going to continue the attack. Lou walked over to Danny as he was slowly getting to one knee. â€œAre you okay Danny?â€ Lou asked as he bent over Danny.
Danny pushed Louâ€™s hand away. â€œIâ€™m fine. Just leave me alone.â€
Jake guessed that his ego was hurt more than his body was. Lou stepped back, giving Danny some room so he could stand up. Luckily for Danny, Jake had been wearing gloves which helped absorb the power of the punches. As a result, there was no broken skin so there wasnâ€™t much blood, other than where his lip was split and the blood dribbling from his nose.
Lou looked at Danny as he tenderly touched the left side of his face, feeling the spots where he was hit. At that moment the door to the deck flew open and the captain came storming out. â€œWhat the hell is going on out here?â€ the Captain roared.
â€œDanny and Jake got into a fight,â€ Lou said.
â€œI saw that. You guys know the rules. There is absolutely no fighting on this boat.â€
Jake started to say something and the Captain interrupted him. â€œDonâ€™t say a word Jake. In fact, I want you to go back to your room and wait there.â€
â€œOkay skipper,â€ Jake replied then headed for the door to go back inside.
The Captain walked over to Danny, looking at his face to see what kind of damage had been done. It didnâ€™t look too bad and shouldnâ€™t need any medical attention. Just to be on the safe side, the Captain decided he better give Danny some concussion tests.
â€œLetâ€™s go inside for a second,â€ the Captain said.
â€œIâ€™m fine,â€ Danny replied.
â€œDonâ€™t argue with me. I want to make sure youâ€™re okay.â€
Turning towards Lou, the Captain said, â€œLou, can you go to the wheelhouse and drive while I take care of this?â€
Danny and the Captain made their way off the deck, going into the galley. â€œIâ€™m going to give you four words and I want you to remember them.
â€œThe words are: Boat, bird, ice and water,â€ the Captain said. â€œIâ€™ll ask you to repeat those to me in a few minutes.â€
Next, the captain held a finger up. â€œFollow my finger with your eyes,â€ the Captain instructed.
The Captain moved his finger back and forth, watching Dannyâ€™s eyes to make sure he didnâ€™t have any issues following his finger. His eyes seemed to follow it without any trouble. â€œWalk in a straight line for ten steps, turn on the balls of your feet and then walk back.â€
Danny did as he was instructed. As the captain watched Danny, it appeared he walked in a straight line. He didnâ€™t seem to wobble at all. â€œWhat were the four words I gave you?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œBoat, bird, ice and water.â€
â€œGood job. You donâ€™t seem to have a concussion.â€
â€œI knew I didnâ€™t.â€
â€œWell, I just wanted to be sure. Now go get some ice and put it on your face so you donâ€™t have any swelling. Stay in there until I tell you otherwise.â€
â€œYes boss,â€ Danny said as the Captain watched him walk to the door, making sure he wasnâ€™t wobbly.
He was almost certain that Danny didnâ€™t have a concussion, but he had wanted to make sure because Danny had fallen on the ice awfully hard when Jake had tackled him. The Captain walked back out on deck where everyone was still working.
â€œBruce and Tim, I want you guys to continue getting the ice off the boat,â€ the Captain said.
They both nodded and the Captain stormed off.
Furious, the Captain walked back into the wheelhouse while he decided what to do about the fighting incident. Lou saw the Captain walk in so he stood up, allowing the Captain to take the chair. Sitting down in the plush, leather chair, the Captain stared out over the ocean for a few seconds, trying to gather his thoughts. Lou stood there patiently waiting for the Captain to start talking. Finally, the Captain swiveled his chair around so he was facing Lou.
â€œWhat the hell happened out there?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œIâ€™m not exactly sure what started it because I was clear over on the other side of the deck.â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t notice them getting ready to fight?â€
â€œNot at first then I heard them yelling at each other.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t know what they were arguing about?â€
â€œNo, I stopped what I was doing and looked over at them. I could see them yelling at each other and they were face to face.â€
â€œAnd you have no idea what it was about?â€
â€œNo, but Iâ€™m sure Danny was getting on Jakeâ€™s back about something. Heâ€™s been riding him an awful lot.â€
â€œIâ€™ve noticed that too. Do you know why heâ€™s been on Jake so much? It seems like itâ€™s even more than what he normally does with greenhorns.â€
Lou shrugged. â€œI think itâ€™s because Jake didnâ€™t back down from him the first time Danny tried it. Jake appears to be someone that doesnâ€™t take any shit from anyone and I donâ€™t think that sits well with Danny.â€
â€œThatâ€™s very apparent,â€ the Captain replied. â€œSo what happened next?â€
â€œOne minute they were yelling at each other then Danny shoved Jake down.â€
â€œYouâ€™re sure Danny initiated the first contact?â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m absolutely certain of it.â€
â€œAt first I thought Jake was going to crack his head open on the ice. But then Jake flew into a rage. He was off the deck and tackling Danny faster than Iâ€™ve ever seen anyone move. Once I saw that, I started running over to them as fast as I could.â€
â€œWhy did it take you so long to get to them?â€ asked the Captain.
â€œI got there as fast as I could. Thereâ€™s still ice on the deck so I couldnâ€™t move too quickly. Anyway, I started making my way over there thinking Jake was going to kill Danny. He started punching him just as Bruce, Tim and I were able to pull him off of Danny.â€
â€œItâ€™s a good thing you did.â€
â€œYeah, if we hadnâ€™t stopped him, who knows what he would have done to Danny. You should have seen the look in his eyes. He was a madman and he was just going to keep hitting Danny.â€
The Captain shook his head and started smiling. â€œIâ€™ve never seen anyone do that to Danny.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t either. Is Danny going to be okay? Jake landed several punches.â€
â€œYeah, I think heâ€™ll be fine. Heâ€™ll have some bruising, but otherwise heâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œIn a way it was good to see someone take it to him,â€ the Captain said. â€œMaybe it will teach him a lesson.â€
â€œI agree. He can be kind of an asshole.â€
The Captain turned to watch Bruce and Tim continue knocking the ice off the boat. He lit a cigarette and took a long drag off of it. â€œWe canâ€™t let this go unpunished. You know the rule. If anyone fights, theyâ€™re off the boat.â€
Lou nodded. It had happened before and the Captain was true to his word. He had kicked the people off and never allowed them to return. It was a little different situation because those two people werenâ€™t hard workers and the Captain never did like them. In this case, Danny had worked for Lou for a long time. He was an extremely hard worker and was good at his job. However, if the Captain didnâ€™t kick them off the boat then everyone would think there were a different set of rules for Danny and Jake.
The Captain said, â€œI really donâ€™t want to kick them off the boat. Dannyâ€™s been with us a long time and heâ€™s a great deckhand. Heâ€™ll be really difficult to replace. As far as Jake goes, I would hate to get rid of him as well. Heâ€™s going to be a hell of a worker. I would like to eventually make him a full-time member of the crew.â€
â€œI agree. I think heâ€™s added a lot to the team. Heâ€™s picked up on everything very quickly and he works hard.â€
The Captain nodded, taking another drag on his cigarette. He blew a couple of smoke rings into the air while he sat there thinking about what to do next. â€œWe canâ€™t take them back to Crescent Harbor now,â€ the Captain said. â€œWe are too far out so it would be a waste of time and gas.â€
â€œSo what do we tell them?â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to let them finish out the fishing season and then weâ€™ll decide what to do when we get back to the harbor. In the meantime, weâ€™re going to give them any extra jobs that need to be done. If a meal needs to be fixed or dishes need to be cleaned theyâ€™re going to be the ones that have to do it.â€
The Captain continued, â€œI donâ€™t care what it is. If shit plugs the toilet then itâ€™s their job to unplug it. If itâ€™s not related to the crab then they have to do it.â€
â€œI understand and I think both of them will understand as well.â€
â€œDo you think they can work together without killing each other for the rest of the trip?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œI think they will have to. Iâ€™ll explain it to them and tell them they have no other choice but to get along. Iâ€™ll make sure they know that if thereâ€™s one more incident theyâ€™ll both be taken back to the harbor immediately.â€
Nodding and thinking, the Captain finished the last of his cigarette then put it out in the ashtray. â€œOff the record, Iâ€™m glad Jake did that to Danny,â€ the Captain said. â€œHe can be such an asshole to the greenhorns. Quite frankly I get sick of it and I think Danny had it coming to him.â€
â€œI agree,â€ Lou replied with a big smile. â€œThat Jake is one tough son of a bitch. I have never seen anyone thatâ€™s willing to challenge Danny, let alone beat the hell out of him.â€
â€œHeâ€™s certainly meaner than I would have expected. Okay, we need to get back to ridding the boat of the ice. Tell Jake to come here so I can explain everything to him. You go talk to Danny and then weâ€™ll get back to work. I want to start setting pots in a couple of hours.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Lou said as he turned and walked down the stairs to Jakeâ€™s room.
A minute later, Lou knocked on Jakeâ€™s door then entered without waiting for a reply. â€œHow pissed is the Captain?â€ Jake asked.
â€œHeâ€™s really pissed.â€
â€œI just couldnâ€™t take it any longer. Heâ€™s been on my ass since we started.
â€œAm I kicked off the boat?â€
â€œThe Captain wants to see you,â€ Lou told Jake. â€œHeâ€™ll tell you whatâ€™s going to happen.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Jake replied as he got off his bunk and walked out the door, thinking his days as a crab fisherman were short lived.
It was unfortunate because Jake liked being out on the boat with everyone and he actually enjoyed the hard work as crazy as that sounded. But he knew he had nobody else to blame but himself. However, he didnâ€™t regret what he did to Danny. He couldnâ€™t just continue letting Danny talk to him like he had, not to mention there was no way he could let Danny get away with shoving him.
A few minutes later, Jake came walking into the wheelhouse. â€œYou wanted to speak to me boss.â€
The Captain looked at Jake and sighed. â€œWhat the hell were you thinking?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry skipper.â€
â€œDo you want to explain yourself?â€
â€œThereâ€™s not much to explain.â€
â€œI just couldnâ€™t take his shit anymore. Every time I did something, he started yelling at me. I tried to keep my mouth shut and take it since Iâ€™m new to this boat, but it just wasnâ€™t stopping. This time he yelled at me for almost having ice fall on my head, as if that was my fault. I just snapped and got into his face.â€
â€œWho made the first physical move?â€ the Captain asked, even though he knew Danny had shoved Jake first. He just wanted to see what Jakeâ€™s response was.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter,â€ Jake responded. â€œWeâ€™re both at fault.â€
Thinking Jake would try to blame Danny, the Captain was happy that Jake didnâ€™t do that. He just gained a new level of respect for the greenhorn. â€œI agree, it really doesnâ€™t matter who started the fight because you both are at fault and youâ€™re both going to be punished.â€
The Captain lit up another cigarette. â€œThe number one rule on the Maiden is no fighting. You guys broke that rule when you attacked each other.â€
â€œAre you going to take us back to the harbor and kick us off the boat now?â€ Jake asked.
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Jake said.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t be thanking me yet. As much as I want to do that, it wouldnâ€™t be fair to the rest of the crew. We would waste too much time going back there, finding replacements and coming back here. We would waste a lot of time and money so that is not an option.â€
Jake nodded, relieved that he was going to be able to continue to work on the boat even if it was for just a little longer. The Captain continued, â€œYou both will get all of the extra jobs around here. It doesnâ€™t matter what it is, you two will have to do the work. Do I make myself clear?â€
â€œYes, perfectly clear.â€
â€œSo I need to know if you guys can work together for the next several weeks without killing each other.â€
â€œI certainly can as long as he stops yelling at me for everything. If he doesnâ€™t, I will tell you right now I will kick his ass. Iâ€™m not going to take his shit anymore. If that gets me kicked off the boat, then so be it.â€
The Captain sighed then took another drag off his cigarette. â€œJake, I understand that you donâ€™t want to take his shit,â€ the Captain said. â€œTrust me, I get it. Just try to be a little patient.â€
â€œIâ€™ll try to be as patient as I can. In fact, I think Iâ€™ve been pretty damn patient so far. Heâ€™s just such an asshole.â€
â€œI know he can be very tough on greenhorns. Heâ€™s not like that with everyone.â€
â€œDoes that mean you can work without fighting him?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œIt means I can work and do my job as long as he shuts his mouth and stays away from me.â€
â€œJust try to get along.â€
â€œIâ€™ll do my part.â€
â€œThanks Jake,â€ said the Captain as he opened a bottle of water and took a drink, thinking the conversation was over.
Jake wasnâ€™t done and had one more comment to add. â€œBut if he gets in my face one more time, he wonâ€™t be as lucky as he was today,â€ Jake said with a hard stare. â€œAt that point I wonâ€™t really care if you kick me off the boat or not. I will beat the hell out of him.â€
â€œI wish you wouldnâ€™t do that,â€ replied the Captain.
â€œIâ€™m not going to subject myself to all his shit just for a job. There are plenty of other jobs out there.â€
â€œI understand. Iâ€™ve already asked Lou to talk to Danny and tell him to cool it.â€
â€œIâ€™ll also have Lou watch him and tell him to keep his mouth shut if he starts to say something.â€
Jake nodded and said, â€œOkay. Then we should get along just fine.â€
â€œSo weâ€™re good?â€ the Captain asked.
â€œWeâ€™re good,â€ Jake answered.
â€œThen I need you to go back out on deck and help with removing the ice. I want to set some pots soon and get back to what we should be doing.â€
â€œSounds good,â€ Jake said as he turned to walk out of the wheelhouse.
He stopped, turned back around and said, â€œThanks Captain. I appreciate you giving us a second chance.â€
â€œWell I still donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m going to do with you guys when we get back to the harbor. You both still may be gone. I just canâ€™t tolerate that kind of behavior on the Maiden.â€
â€œI get it. I still appreciate you letting us finish the trip,â€ Jake said as he walked out of the wheelhouse.
* * *